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Best Acne Cleansers

Updated June 2023
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Best of the Best
Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser
Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser
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Tested Choice
Bottom Line

We found that this is a great option for users who have oily skin or sensitive skin and want to reduce consistent breakouts.


Formulated with a unique time-released salicylic acid that remains active even after rinsing. Provides powerful and effective results. We noticed that the added green tea extract really helped reduce irritation. Formulated without harsh or harmful ingredients, and cruelty-free. Started working for us after just 3 uses.


If you plan to use every day, you may notice that this option will dry out your skin.

Best Bang for the Buck
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash
Oil-Free Acne Fighting Face Wash
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Best for Oily Skin
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Sold as a 3-pack, this effective acne cleanser comes at a significant value.


Works well with a facial cleansing brush, but can also be used on its own. Does a good job of keeping oil at bay. Contains 2% salicylic acid for added breakout fighting power. Helpful in clearing up cystic acne, which is tough to combat.


Isn’t meant as a method of removing makeup.

EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser
Foaming Facial Cleanser
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pH Balanced
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Offers excellent cleansing with a rich lather and a pleasant scent, though it may be a bit drying for some.


Earns praise for being effective for deep cleansing and for leaving skin feeling refreshed and clean. Has a pH-balanced, oil-free formula that contains amino acids and a light scent. A bottle lasts, as a little cleanser goes a long way.


May be a bit drying on some skin types, especially for those whose skin is prone to dryness. Pump dispenser occasionally clogs.

Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser
Mario Badescu
Acne Facial Cleanser
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Easy to Use
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A strong and easy-to-use cleanser, this product does an impressive job clearing acne and evening skin tone.


Has small, hygienic spout that makes this product easy to use in shower without letting water in. Helps to even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of acne scars. Is gentle on sensitive skin. Leaves skin looking polished and clear.


Is best when used every other day due to the strong ingredients to ensure skin doesn’t get dry.

CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
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Silky Textures
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The gentle, hydrating CeraVe foaming cream has a unique blend of ingredients that cleanses your skin.


Combination of ceramide ingredients works to maintain your natural skin, leaving behind a refreshed feeling. Use once a day, then build up as you go along. Classic formula has no additional scents, making it an excellent choice for those with sensitive or irritable skin types.


A more heavy-duty pick, so may not be the best pick for drier skin types.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best acne cleansers

Anyone who’s struggled with acne knows how frustrating it can be. Every time you clear up a breakout in one area of the face, another seems to pop up in a different spot. The trick to keeping acne under control is making sure your pores are clean of dirt, oil, and bacteria. That’s why having a good acne cleanser is so important.

Acne cleaners are like any face cleanser in that they help remove dirt, oil, and makeup from the skin. However, what sets an acne formula apart from other cleansers is that it also contains ingredients that can treat acne and clogged pores. Acne cleansers can help exfoliate the surface of the skin and even inside the pores to prevent clogs. If you prefer natural products, you can find all-natural acne cleansers that use ingredients like tea tree oil to fight bacteria. 

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Foaming acne cleanser may contain sulfates, which help the formula lather up. They can strip the skin of natural oils and make acne worse, so it’s best to opt for a sulfate-free formula.

Key considerations

Active ingredients

To treat acne, a cleanser must have the right active ingredients to help fight acne-causing bacteria, reduce pore-clogging oil, and/or exfoliate the skin to remove debris from the pores. Some common active ingredients in acne cleansers include the following:

Benzoyl peroxide: This medication can help kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin. It can be very drying, though, so only folks with oily skin should use it. Benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabrics, which means you should be careful with your towels and washcloths when using an acne cleanser that contains it. 

Salicylic acid: This is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that helps reduce acne by exfoliating dead skin cells that can clog pores. It can exfoliate within the pores, so it’s able to help remove debris that may be clogging them. Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties, which allows it to soothe acne breakouts. It isn’t quite as drying as benzoyl peroxide, but it takes longer to work. 

Sulfur: This is a natural ingredient that helps absorb excess oil on the surface of the skin so it doesn’t clog your pores and cause breakouts. It can aid in sloughing off dead skin cells that can lead to clogged pores, too. Sulfur isn’t as harsh on the skin as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Tea tree oil: This is a plant-derived natural ingredient with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea tree oil can kill acne-causing bacteria, as well as help reduce the redness and inflammation associated with acne. 

Glycolic acid: This is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that helps exfoliate the skin to remove pore-clogging debris. 

Clay: This is another natural ingredient that helps soak up excess oil that can clog pores and cause acne. Clay can also help exfoliate dead skin cells.


Acne cleansers come in a variety of different formulas, so there’s a fit for every type of skin. 

Gel: These cleansers, as the name implies, have a gel-like consistency. They’re extremely effective at deep cleaning the pores to remove clogs, which is why gel is such an effective formula for acne cleansers. This type of cleanser works well for oily and combination skin. 

Foam: These cleansers have a lightweight texture that usually starts as a gel but foams up when mixed with water. These formulas work well for oily and combination skin. 

Cream: These cleansers have a thicker, richer texture and typically contain hydrating ingredients to prevent the skin from becoming too dry. They’re the best choice for dry and sensitive skin. 

Bar: These cleansers resemble traditional soap bars and may contain some similar ingredients. As a result, some of them can be drying, so they’re best for oily skin. 

If you’re using a prescription treatment for your acne, it’s a good idea to check with your dermatologist before starting to use a new acne cleanser.




The majority of people who struggle with acne have oily skin. That’s because excess oil on the surface of the skin can clog the pores and trap bacteria, which can lead to breakouts. If you have oily skin, go with an oil-free cleanser so you’re not adding more oil to your skin that can clog your pores.


Oil isn’t the only ingredient that can clog pores and cause acne breakouts, so you should look for an acne cleanser labeled as noncomedogenic. That label means the cleanser is formulated so it isn’t likely to clog pores and doesn’t feature any ingredients known to cause pore blockages that lead to acne.


Like other types of cleansers, acne cleansers often contain fragrance to give the formula a pleasant scent. If you have sensitive skin, the chemical fragrances used to scent some cleansers can trigger irritation and other skin issues. That’s why most acne-prone individuals prefer cleansers that are unscented or don’t contain any artificial fragrance. 


The packaging for acne cleansers usually varies based on the formula. Most gel and foaming cleansers come in a bottle with a pump dispenser, which is very convenient. Cream cleansers have a thicker texture, so they’re usually housed in a squeeze tube to make getting the product out of the container a little easier. Bar cleansers have minimal packaging, so they’re an eco-friendly option. 

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Acne isn’t a problem that only affects teenagers. Roughly 25% of adult men and 50% of adult women experience some type of acne.

Acne cleanser prices

Acne cleansers vary in price based on the quality of the ingredients and the size of the container. Most cleansers cost between $5 and $84.


The most affordable acne cleansers are usually drugstore formulas that are fairly drying and only contain a single active ingredient. These typically cost between $5 and $20


These acne cleansers aren’t as likely to dry out the skin and typically contain two or more active ingredients. They generally cost between $20 and $40.


The priciest acne cleansers are usually from luxury beauty brands and contain two or more active ingredients. They also aren’t as drying to the skin. These typically cost between $40 and $84.

Avoid acne cleansers with exfoliating beads or grains in them. They can irritate the skin and make breakouts worse.



  • Don’t use hot water with your acne cleanser. It can dry out your skin and cause it to produce more oil to compensate, leading to additional breakouts. Instead, use lukewarm or warm water when washing your face.
  • Don’t scrub the cleanser over your face with a washcloth. It can remove the skin’s natural protective barrier and cause irritation. Instead, use clean fingers to massage the cleanser in gently, or opt for a cleaning brush for a deeper clean. 
  • Use makeup remover or micellar water before using an acne cleanser. It allows the acne-fighting ingredients in the cleanser to penetrate your skin more effectively and target the oil and bacteria. 
  • Pat skin dry. When you’re finished washing your face, gently pat it dry with a microfiber towel to avoid irritating your skin. 
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Make sure that any acne cleanser you use on your face is intended for that area. Acne body washes are too heavy to use on the delicate skin of the face and neck.


Q. How often do I need to use an acne cleanser?

A. Washing your face too often can dry it out, and that’s especially true when you’re using an acne cleanser with ingredients meant to dry up acne and/or soak up excess oil. Wash your face twice daily — in the morning and again at night. That should effectively remove all the dirt, oil, and bacteria from your skin, but it won’t strip the skin of too much moisture. 

Q. How long should I leave an acne cleanser on my skin? 

A. You shouldn’t just let the cleanser sit on your skin. Instead, take 30 to 60 seconds to gently massage it into your skin with your fingers or a cleaning brush. That helps the active acne-fighting ingredients in the cleanser penetrate the pores and go to work. 

Q. Can I use an acne cleanser if I have dry skin?

A. While most people with acne have oily skin, you can still get breakouts if you have dry skin. The trick to using an acne cleanser on dry skin is finding the right formula. Opt for a cream cleanser that contains some hydrating ingredients to avoid stripping your skin of too much moisture. Be sure to follow up with a quality moisturizer, too.